Scott County works extra to get victory

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Sikeston catcher Dexter Moore jumped to avoid Scott County runner Andy Stephens after getting the force-out at home. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Jon Simpher said he felt strong enough to perhaps pitch 11 or 12 innings.

As it turned out, Simpher only had to go 10 in order to help lead Scott County past Sikeston Tuesday in the opening game of the American Legion District 14 tournament at Harmon Field.

Second-seeded Scott County pushed across six runs in the top of the 10th inning to snap a tie as Post 369 knocked off fifth-seeded Sikeston 10-4.

Because of the unbalanced bracket necessitated by the five-team field, Scott County moves into Thursday's 6:30 p.m. winner's bracket final against either top-seeded Dunklin County or fourth-seeded Cape Girardeau. Those squads play today.

"With the way the tournament is set up, this was such a big win for us," Scott County coach Tom Dirnberger said.

Simpher realized the importance of the contest, which is why he wasn't about to give up the ball.

Rusty Hendricks, left, greeted Jacob Essner at the plate after the pair scored two of Scott County's six runs in the 10th inning.

"I felt like I could have pitched at least 11 innings, maybe 12," he said. "With the lineup we've got, I knew sooner or later our bats would get going."

Simpher allowed all four runs --just two were earned, thanks to some early shaky defense by Scott County -- over the first five innings.

But as Simpher got stingier, so did Scott County's defense. Post 369, after committing six errors in the first five innings, played errorless ball over the final five frames.

Simpher fired nothing but blanks during that time, shutting out Sikeston on just three hits. He finished with an 11-hitter, striking out eight and walking one.

"I felt like I got stronger as the game went on," Simpher said.

Said Dirnberger: "He did get stronger as the game went along. I know he was up there with his pitch count, but he was still throwing good."

Trailing 4-2 after six innings, Post 369 tied the contest with two runs -- one earned -- in the top of the seventh. Blake Dirnberger's RBI single made it 4-3, and Trenton Moses delivered a sacrifice fly for the deadlock.

Simpher had to escape a jam in the bottom of the eighth as Sikeston had runners on second and third with one out. He retired the next two batters on ground balls.

In the top of the 10th, Lucas Dirnberger led off with a walk and Chad Friend was hit by a pitch. That forced Joey Williams, Sikeston's tough left-hander, out of the game and led to Scott County gaining control.

Reliever Scott Droddy hit Andy Stephens with a pitch to load the bases and Rusty Hendricks walked to force in the go-ahead run.

Jacob Essner followed with an RBI single to keep the bases loaded. With two outs, Shane Menz drilled a two-run double and Moses followed with a two-run single.

"Sikeston has a good team, but we finally got our bats going," Tom Dirnberger said.

Menz had three of Scott County's 11 hits. Moses had two hits and three RBIs, while Hendricks added two hits.

Williams was the tough-luck loser. In nine-plus innings, he allowed six runs -- five earned -- and eight hits.

Ryan Adams had three of Sikeston's 11 hits.

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